Belardi Autosport sees success at St. Pete

Belardi Auto Racing kicks off its USF2000 challenge.

Belardi Auto Racing commenced its quest for the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship title over the weekend (March 29-30) with two visits to the post-race podium. The French tandem of Nico Jamin and Florian Latorre were drivers to watch throughout the season-opening doubleheader on the Streets of St. Petersburg, finishing third in race one and two respectively, while Daniel Burkett further highlighted the team's talent, securing a top-five finish in Florida.

When Belardi Auto Racing arrived in St. Petersburg for the start of the 2014 USF2000 Championship season, it was focused on one thing...battling for top honors. With the talented trio of Burkett, Jamin, and Latorre getting behind the wheels, it immediately set about doing just that. The drivers and crew were confident things were going as planned entering qualifying, utilizing the two practice sessions to develop the cars for the 1.8-mile concrete-lined street circuit.

The timed run, however, proved to be a somewhat frustrating affair, as the three Belardi racers did not get the true flying lap they desired, placing them deeper in the talented field then hoped. Latorre's No. 14 Latorre Menuiserie/Masm Cogny/Acsent du Sud Ouest/13th Avenue/Stand 21/Bell machine proved quickest among the group with the seventh best time, just edging Burkett in ninth and Jamin in 10th.

Aware that patience and racecraft would be key come race time, the Belardi Auto Racing racers had extra time to plan prior to race one, as severe weather postponed the start for several hours. When the action did get underway in tricky wet conditions, the red Belardi Auto Racing steeds were among those to watch. Leading the team charge was Jamin, with No. 41 Synova/13th Avenue/Stand 21/Bell entry carving its way forward lap after lap. The rookie in the end secured an impressive trip to the post-race celebrations with a third place finish. Burkett likewise showcased his racecraft, making the most of every opportunity to go forward en route to a strong top-five finish. Latorre, meanwhile, was involved in a multi-car fight for positions throughout the 15-lap affair, giving the squad a third top-10 result with a seventh place finish.

Jorge Goncalvez, Belardi Auto Racing
Jorge Goncalvez, Belardi Auto Racing

Photo by: Mike Geng

Given the strong results in the opener, spirits were high under the team awning when the USF2000 Championship cars rolled back on-track one day later in picturesque sunny Florida conditions. Race two of the IndyCar Series opening event, however, proved to be a mixed affair. While the trio of Burkett, Jamin, and Latorre all got away cleanly when the green flag waved, the action ended for Burkett's No. 4 Granite Financial/Celco Controls/Champion Spark Plugs/GTR Simulators/Roam Mobility machine a few corners later via a multi-car collision, which also included the car piloted by Jamin. It was not all bad news though, as Latorre not only avoided the carnage, but promptly made his presence felt. The second-year racer took home a hard-fought and well-deserved third place finish after dueling for positions each and every lap, giving Belardi Auto Racing its second podium trophy of the weekend to start the 2014 campaign. The Frenchman was also awarded the Replay XD Move of the Race thanks to a strong opening lap pass.

"This first USF2000 event in St Petersburg was very exciting for me," commented Jamin. "I really enjoyed racing on the street circuit. I had a difficult qualifying session in the dry, but I was able to score big points in race one in the wet with a drive from 10th to third. Unfortunately, the second race was too short for me because of the first lap crash. I really have to thank my team. We have to keep working very hard to gain some performance on a dry track, but I'm confident about the rest of the season."

"This season, my goal is to fight for the championship title, so, I am not totally satisfied with the results, even if I was on the podium in race two," started Latorre. "My team has done an incredible job the last few weeks to change a lot of things, and I know we will be better and better in the races to come. I can't wait to go racing at Barber. I will be more than ready to fight for the wins."

Belardi Auto Racing's chase for more Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda glory now takes a short break until April 26-27, when races three and four on the 14-race calendar take place in Alabama at the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park. The multiple series race winners will enter the twin bill sitting second in the team standings, while Latorre is third in the driver championship fight, ahead of Jamin in ninth, and Burkett in 12th. Highlights from the USF2000 Championship doubleheader on the Streets of St. Petersburg will be air on NBC Sports on May 24, from 1:30 am to 2:30 am ET.

Belardi Auto Racing

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About this article
Series USF2000
Article type Race report
Tags belardi autosport, indy lights, st. pete, usf2000